An innovative microscope has been developed which provides scientists with a new window through which to explore the dynamics of molecular order and disorder in living cells and other quasi-liquid systems. Originally conceived by famed cell biologist and microscopy pioneer Shinya InouĂ© of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, the Centrifuge Polarizing Microscope (CPM) employs laser pulses precisely synchronized to illuminate a cell spinning in a centrifuge. The CPM captures a magnified video image of the specimen with a resolution of better than a micrometer at a time exposure as short as six nanoseconds. The new instrument makes it possible to image dynamic changes that occur while living cells are still spinning in the centrifuge. This enables one to directly visualize the process by which the centrifugal field stratifies and aligns different membrane and filament systems and organelles inside the cell and to explore how different cell components are anchored to one another and how localized forces affect the alignment and assembly of molecules inside living cells. The CPM was developed jointly by Olympus Optical, Hamamatsu Photonics and the Marine Biological Laboratory. The new microscope was announced in a special poster session of the annual American Society for Cell Biology meeting held in Washington, DC, from December 13-17, 1997.—June Kinoshita


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